Navy veteran finds fulfillment in obtaining college degree


Some students can relate to Amy Sain’s dilemma as she approached her high school graduation. She was undecided about her future career and did not want to take on the cost of higher education until she determined her path. As a result, Sain, a sophomore in biology at Lenoir-Rhyne University, decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy in 2016.

“When I graduated from Lincolnton High School, I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t think that my parents could afford it,” she said. “And I didn’t want to go into debt for a degree, so I enlisted.”

With the GI benefit, Sain can now focus on school.

“My military service set me up to go to college, where I can focus on my coursework and enjoy the experience,” she said. “I guess I’m a little bit later than others in working toward my degree, but I feel like I’m still able to do everything and not have to stress about the finances.”

Amy Sain, right, pours liquid from a beaker while masked in a lab

Overcoming obstacles in the Navy

The military experience shaped Sain into becoming the student she is today. Sain, who completed her boot camp at the Naval Station in Great Lakes located near North Chicago, served as a Master-at-Arms. After boot camp, she completed additional training in San Antonio, Texas, and then was stationed at Virginia Beach for the remainder of her commitment. In her role, she was responsible for law enforcement, investigations and even conducted anti-terrorism protection operations.

Equipped to handle the rigor of various situations, Sain also prepared to overcome the stereotype of a woman with a badge.

“Honestly, I never really saw myself as a military police officer,” she said. “Out of 40 people in my shift that I worked with, there were only two females.”

Amy Sain, third from left, stands outside with her fellow Navy men outside in front of a ship

Sain credits her military experience as a foundation that shaped her as an individual.

“Dedication is my core value,” she said. “I would say my time in the Navy taught me how to get through anything. There is nothing I cannot do. Plus, the Navy helped me learn how to manage my time because I had to take advancement exams for my job. So, learning to study for those exams and working full time helped me learn how to manage my time better.”

The Transition to College

Sain recently started her transition to college life after serving in the Navy for four years. Highly rated as a military-friendly school, Sain chose Lenoir-Rhyne for her undergraduate studies due to the location and proximity to family and the benefit of her credits transferring.

“When I was going to Lincoln High School, I knew Lenoir-Rhyne was a prestigious school,” Sain said. “I’m close to my family and work in Hickory, so the location was a key factor. Plus, my education here is great.”

Short-term, Sain aims to apply to graduate school, where she intends to achieve her childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian. She said that her biology studies at Lenoir-Rhyne provide her exposure to the sciences to prepare for future work in animal science.

“I love animals, especially horses,” she said. “I currently work at a horse farm, and my family owned a boarding facility when I was growing up. I like taking care of horses and want to be equipped to do that in my future career.”

In addition to the coursework, the connection to faculty has supported Sain’s experience at Lenoir-Rhyne.

“I feel like I can connect with the teachers and ask them questions,” Sain said. “Lenoir-Rhyne gives me a community college feeling without being a community college.”

For example, in her biology class, it is a flipped classroom style, which means she watches the recorded lectures outside the classroom, preserving class time for engaging conversation and dialogue, both with her fellow students and the professor. Sain also said the science labs build on the classroom discussion.

“We’ve examined osmosis of a shelled egg, photosynthesis of plants and made cheese during an enzyme lab,” she said. “The class sizes and being able to engage with the professors makes my experience more personal.”

After serving his country as a former medic with the 101st Airborne, Noah Jenkins is paving his way in academics and relationships at LR. With sights on a future career in pharmaceuticals or even more education, he is working toward a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry.

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Post high school, veteran student Anthony Guy initially served in the United States Navy. He completed an additional 11 years of service and survived an explosion – being medically discharged, Guy uses his military benefits to pursue a degree in nursing.

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